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Creating timeless collaboration

Harvard Medical School,
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine Transformation
Boston, MA

Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library was transformed from an inward looking, brutalist building into an outwardly engaging 21st century library. By reinvigorating the interior experience and services, along with the addition of collaborative environments and community-focused amenities, Shepley Bulfinch addressed the shifting role of medical and health sciences libraries in today’s medical education.

Countway Library is now a social connector that celebrates its urban connections and seamlessly merges academia and community. Previously surrounded by a sunken plaza, the Countway Library’s new public landscaping and circulation create a graceful and welcoming entrance to the Harvard Medical School campus. 

A new plaza and public entrance facing Huntington Avenue engages the library with the Longwood medical community and creates an accessible entry into the Harvard Medical School lower campus via ramps, not pictured. 

Prior to renovating these spaces, Shepley Bulfinch was engaged by Harvard Medical School to conduct a program and feasibility study to assess its viability as a contemporary medical library. The new library plan recommended expansion in the amount and variety of library user spaces that provide a continuum of activity, including technology-rich environments and places for collaboration, inspiration, and quiet concentration.

The first floor was re-envisioned as an active hub of activity, with a café, bookstore, event rooms, and maker space including seating clusters arranged in a series of layered vignettes for collaboration. Bringing in natural daylight and emphasizing campus views were primary project goals. Reflective materials and indirect lighting reinforce a dynamic interior that is full of life and ever changing. A new café provides coffee, pastry and sandwiches for the library users and the broader community.

The Countway Library renovation advances the Harvard Medical School campus by incorporating Harvard’s rigorous Green Building Standards for Healthy Materials, adhering to the Healthier Hospitals initiative for furniture, and supporting the Library’s Healthcare Without Harm Initiative.